08/14/1998 11:07:04 Relaxed Yeltsin in good mood despite Russia crisis
By Adam Tanner
NOVGOROD, Russia, Aug 14 (Reuters) - A relaxed and smiling
President Boris Yeltsin put a brave face on Russia's financial
crisis on Friday when he interrupted his holiday to visit this
mediaeval city northwest of Moscow.
Yeltsin, who briefly donned a white cap and white coat to
inspect a meat processing factory, said he had no plans to end
his holiday early and even seemed jovial as he fielded
reporters' questions about turbulence on financial markets.
"I definitely should not come back (to Moscow) now," Yeltsin
said after stepping off his plane and pressing the hands of
young women who greeted him in traditional costume in Novgorod,
about 350 km (220 miles) northwest of Moscow.
"That would signify that there was turmoil, that would
signify that there was a disaster and that everything was
collapsing. On the contrary, everything is going as it should.
The president is resting."
Yeltsin emphasised his point by later flying back to Valdai
-- not Moscow -- from Novgorod, which dates back to the ninth
century, was once Russia's biggest city and was a pioneering
artistic and political centre for about 600 years.
In his first public appearance in about a month, he told
reporters he would continue the policy of a stable rouble, one
of the few concrete economic achievements of his second term as
"There will be no devaluation -- that's firm and definite,"
he told reporters.
Asked whether he still supported Prime Minister Sergei
Kiriyenko, Yeltsin said: "Yes, yes, I will keep him on."
Yeltsin, who was accompanied by his wife Naina, at times
smiled broadly and said he felt "fine". He had heart surgery in
November 1996 and pneumonia soon afterwards.
Even so, the president had trouble hearing several questions
on his arrival and was helped by his press secretary, Sergei
At one point later, during the visit to the meat processing
plant, Yeltsin seemed to lose sight of his trusted aide.
The quick-thinking Yastrzhembsky, who had been close to
Yeltsin all the time, removed his white peaked cap and said with
a smile: "Would it be better if I took off my hat?"
Yeltsin said his priorities on his return to the Kremlin
would be the economy and some unspecified "personnel issues",
raising the possibility of a cabinet reshuffle.
He also urged parliament to meet in emergency session to
consider the government's anti-crisis programme.
Yeltsin has been on vacation for most of the time since July
18, first in the northwestern lakeland of Karelia and then at
Valdai near Novgorod.
"A half a day you rest, then two days or work, then half of
rest," Yeltsin said.
Yastrzhembsky told Reuters: "Our president rests a lot less
than you think."
Before leaving Novgorod after about three hours, Yeltsin
told a few hundred residents in the town's historic Kremlin
fortress that within days he would sign a decree renaming the
city Veliki (Great) Novgorod.
Locals say such a move would help differentiate their city
from the now larger and economically more important Nizhny